A REAL LIFE ‘M.A.S.H.” STORY – BY ELLIN CURLEY

My first husband, Larry, was in R.O.T.C. in college. That meant that he would become an officer when he entered the U.S. Army. So, after basic training, he became a Lieutenant, not a grunt. He was sent to Vietnam for a year. I think it was 1970-1971. He was assigned a M.A.S.H. unit to run near the front (all M.A.S.H. units were near the front). He was in charge of over 200 people.

Larry was lucky he didn’t have the traumatic experiences of soldiers who were fighting in the field. Thee active, fighting soldiers were the ones treated at Larry’s medical center.

Larry when he went to Vietnam

Larry loved to tell the stories of the two incidents that happened on his watch that resulted in injuries to his people. These were the only two injuries to his staff on his watch.

One of the big projects on the base was the building of a huge, state of the art swimming pool. Like in the movie and TV shows, of “M.A.S.H.”, Larry’s unit was able to get hold of steel beams that were earmarked for bridges in the area. They used these beams to reinforce the substructure of the pool. This was one solid swimming pool!

When the pool was almost done and was half full, a couple of guys got drunk and one of them fell in. The guy almost drowned before his buddies were able to drag him out of the water.

The second incident happened at the guard station on the grounds. The two soldiers on guard duty were apparently ‘playing’ with their guns. One went off and shot the other guy in the gut. If he hadn’t been literally on the grounds of a hospital, he would have bled out.

There was a Court Martial hearing for these guys. Remember they were guards, at the front, in an active war zone. They used the classic defense: “We didn’t know that the guns were loaded!” I swear to God this actually happened! Obviously they were convicted and thrown out of the Army. It was almost a Darwin Award situation.

Larry, in drag, in the Army Base Xmas show in Vietnam

So, Larry’s military experiences were more “M.A.S.H” than “Apocalypse Now”. He was very lucky, and so were the two bozos in this story. Can you imagine having to tell a grieving family their loved one had died in either of these two ways?

6 thoughts on “A REAL LIFE ‘M.A.S.H.” STORY – BY ELLIN CURLEY

    • These stories really feel like they could have each been anepisode of M.A.S.H. I can see radar negotiating for the steel beams for the swimming pool. Or Blake or Potter presiding over the court martial hearing.

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    • Larry was very lucky to have avoided the real horrors of Vietnam. He really lived in a sit com situation in the middle of the war. Although his unit was near the front and the doctors treated men right out of the field. So there was plenty of death and tragedy. But Larry was management so he was a bit more removed. He never did drugs or suffered PTSD. And he served his full year there. So he was very lucky and very atypical.

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